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Bit By Bit Spending some months in Europe. Let's see how it goes... Check ya later, Barry.

Scotland the Brave

USA | Monday, 21 June 2010 | Views [412] | Comments [1]

As we write this, our last missive of the days we spent in Europe, it has already been two and a half months since we've been back. That is just over the amount of time we actually spent travelling. Much has happened since our return, including our recent return to the exact same apartment number of the exact same apartment complex, this time freshly painted with new carpet. Not too many days go by without us looking at each other and saying, thoughtfully and carefully, because we are still homesick for the remainder of our adventures, "Where would we be now?" And we would go through our mental map, dot the trail to where we should be, and wonder what it would be like. A total bum deal, like Denmark? A time of rest and solitude, like Sweden? Or a smashing success like Rudesheim? A money trap like Cologne? Would the litter and grafitti be just as intense? The homeless just as broken and aged? Would the temperature have finally crossed over into 'warm'?

This message comes to you from Greece, which was intended to be the tail end of our original journey. If any of you recall, we had been planning the trip to Greece for a year with our sister Victoria and Rebecca's mother, in honor of Victoria's high school graduation. It had been paid for in advance, to assure that nothing would keep us from potentially ruining her time of celebration. We have arrived safely, and indeed already finished our first day of the Four Day Classical Tour. It was a long day. But we cannot tell this story, until we finish the last.

We did not see much of Scotland, but what we did was well worth it. We did not even venture from Edinburgh, and we spent five rather glorious days there. We found a place to stay in record time, as technology is very much in our favor, and the Scottish are a friendly and helpful people. With the assistance of our guidebook and an app on the iPhone a bus shuttle from the airport dropped us off in a rather central location. We stopped in at the Royal Scotsguard Hostel, but they were booked. The jolly old man that answered our ring took us to the connecting building, which was a club for the Royal Scotsguard - the basic equivalent of our VFW. He asked his buddy behind the bar where he should send us for a good rate. The buddy was so insistant on doing us right that he took us outside by his rolling brogue and pointed up the road at a possible place, repeating the directions with his thick tongue at least three times until we actually went full circle on his directions ("The white saign thar, ya seeatt?" "The white one behind that yellow one?" "Aye, that theer white one. Raight thar." "Oh, you mean the one to the left of the yellow one?" "Aye, that white sign to the lift, raight whar ma fainger is pointin'." "Mmm, so the white one behind the yellow?") It wound up being a good fit. The bathroom was in need of a serious re-do, and the carpet could have stood to be changed, but we got a special deal because we intended on staying four nights, and breakfast and WiFi thrown into the deal. Our host was a plump version of Michael Meyers, and talked just like him, his laughter often sarcastic and standing on top of an excuse. He was a grand host, and we would recommend the place, but he sure did know how to skirt around any issues. It was freezing cold in the room during the day, and turns out they turned off the heat from 10AM to 7PM ("This be ain auld Sca'ish home, aind the bricks hold in the haight during the daiy.") That hearty Scottish breakfast made up for any discomforts. Two fried eggs, two slices of toast apiece, some thick-sliced bacon, baked beans or stewed potatoes, some hearty rolls of sausage, coffee or tea. It sat in our stomachs as heavy as the tone in our ears.

We wandered the streets during the day, as we always did. There was a park in the center of the city, a bit of a valley, rolled over with deep, fresh grass, dotted with monuments and trees, a playground on one side, right by a cemetary, where the graves were roped off and hand-written signs warned about collapsing. An ampitheater was on one side, and on the other a steep incline reached up to the topmost part of the valley, which towered high above the city, the Edinburgh castle crowning its city. It looked down on full streets of shopping plazas, and the sea that was broken by islands. We visited the castle one day, and we went to the Camera Obscura as well, one of the few that is set up in the world.

On Good Friday we went to the St. John's church that sits above the cemetary of collapsing graves. We waited out in the cold for nearly an hour for the doors to open, and then listened to a sung rendition of the last few chapters of the book of Mark. At first we didn't know what to do, if we should skip out, because we were going to be bored to death. But the voices lulled us, the sing-song of the scriptures was enchanting, and the performance was absolutely lovely. Turns out we were supposed to stay in the rows until the chorus had filed down the center aisle, but we slipped out the back as soon as everyone stood. Rebecca tried shaking one of the priests' hands, voicing her praise of the performance, and he waved her on, real irritated like. The flash of red choir gowns behind us, stalking us through the door and down the front steps, told us our mistake.

On the day we went to the castle, we looked down at the minions below, scattered on the park, and chuckled to ourselves at a strange-looking group. "Are those Buddhist monks?" It turned out that they were practicing an outdoor Easter play, and we watched them for a while. We went back on Saturday, for the performance, and have never been so impressed. Our role as the crowd was to be exactly that, only we were transported back two thousand years to Christ's last days. We watched Jesus with a Scottish accent, and his disciples with an equally curious tone, as they trashed the temple. We traipsed along the hills of the park and felt more than the chill of the winter wind as Jesus wept in the garden of Gethsemane. We were meant to be swept in the cries for Him to be crucified, and we followed close behind as He carried His cross across the bridge and up the road to the top of a hill, where He was crucified and reappeared to His followers. The sound system and music made the whole performance, and must have taken a lot of work to get set up.

We went back to the Scotsguard Club at least two or three more nights, and we talked to the gentleman who had helped us originally, a man by the name of Chic, and we drank Scottish beer and watched football (which is soccer to Americans). The great thing about our time there was that we found ourselves invited to a piping competition which would be held on the final day of our tour of Europe. The competetion was between the number two, who came from Ireland, and the number three, who came from Scotland. Although we were shabbily dressed on game day, we were received with warmth, and ushered upstairs. We meandered into a small room with only a few tables, and found ourselves part of a very elite selection. There couldn't have been more than thirty other people. The pipes reverberated brightly in the small room, and for an hour and a half we listened and watched, the fingers fluttering over the holes, the smart black shoes tapping out a smart, marching beat. When it was done we voted for our favorite, and of course the Scottish kid one, but they all swore up and down that it was fair, and not favoritism. We ate a hearty dish of rice and curry chicken, and talked to the old man at our table, who wore a tweed suit and had mimed the pipes with his gnarled fingers as he listened. Turns out he had been playing most of his life, and was a teacher at the piping college in Clairmont, California. He urged Michael to go, to follow his dream, and gave us information. There was a raffle for some prizes, and amidst our confusion we wound up purchasing some thirty tickets, and were terrified that we would look like the arrogant Americans who just had to win all the prizes. Thankfully we only took home one, and Chic smiled with pride as Rebecca went to receive the bottle of wine. He told the tale of our journey from America, and was proud to bestow us with the memory.

We would have liked to see more of Scotland, the landscape, and perhaps a glance of something pertaining to William Wallace. But it was not meant to be. So we left Scotland for the States, and our travels were over.




Yay! I was afraid you wouldn't finish. Thanks for taking me with you on your journey, bff :-)

  Mali Jun 29, 2010 12:01 AM

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